Welcome to the premier of the “Inside Scoop” series in which you receive an insider’s view of Atlas!
The first meeting began with green and black steno books and bright colored pens — purple, pink, blue, and green! (we got the multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural aspect covered, but we still lacked representation of the other sex and gender.)
It also began with an awing thrill — the type with butterflies, a strong sense of duty, and a fresh but bare page. Think: a young Sojourner Truth phrasing her first thoughts of what was to become “Ain’t I a Woman?“.
We began with our pitch:
A cooperative empowerment center for immigrant youth and their allies.
In a couple of hours, we discussed everything from the details of “what will Atlas be like?” to “okay, what do we do now?” There is much to say, but let’s begin with “why?”
As people who had been dealing with immigrant youth and immigration issues at a primary level, we felt the lack of adequate services for this population. Here are a few of the things that…
Current Organizations Lack:
- a safe space for immigrant youth:
One of our members eloquently described how “coming out as an immigrant” is similar to “coming out as gay or lesbian.” Both populations are discriminated against. They deal with obstacles at an intimate, legal, social, and political level. The difference? There are organizations that adhere to the needs of LGBTQ such as the Center, LiGaly, The Door, and Green Chimneys (just to name a few). We are in full support of the LGBTQ community finally services and a voice. Immigrant youth too need a haven. to feel safe, gain confidence and strength against the anti.
- cultural competence:
Being an immigrant means are synthesis, of atleast two different cultures. This includes two sets of languages, symbols, traditions, norms, and institutions (eg. the family). Immigrant youth needs staff members who are fluent in other cultures other than “American.” We need multicultural and multilingual staff who understand the hardships, the psychology of what it means to be an immigrant in today’s U.S.
- Equal Opportunity:
There are myriad of organizations that offer training, college-preparation, and health services to teenagers. (insert applause here :)) But, how many of them offer all of their services to youth regardless of status? zero. (if you know of any, tell us!) They require documentation to join some programs. We believe all kids have the right to access resources, period.
After a list of necessities came a list of solutions. Long meeting short, our goal is to open Atlas by January 2012 with $500,000 and a staff of at least a lawyer, counselor, and life coach. Yes, that is a grandiose ambition for four individuals, half of whom are under 20. But, look at it this way: when the the Wright Brothers wanted to fly, people not only laughed but ridiculed them. When life lacks lemons, sow some.
On the Agenda:
- In order to begin Atlas, we need more than four people. That is why we decided to draft a petition for an immigrant youth and their allies declaring they need services.
- On our first meeting, our organization was the-amazing-NGO-yet-to-be-named. Our task was to come up with a name for our fetus.
- how to people become members?
* a written application
* ages 14 to 24
- board members?
* they are the base of the NGO
* requires weekly commitment
* who do we choose?
- staff members?
*who will help us?
All the things listed on our agenda were and are ongoing discussions. We are at the most basic steps. We ended the meeting with a possible candidate to add to our rockstar-team: Brendan Martin (more about him next issue). Things looked sketchy. But we were sure of one thing: the-amazing-NGO-yet-to-be-named will be born, and we four are here to make sure it does.
note: Want to get involved? Have a superb suggestion? Wish to learn more? contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Atlas NYC facebook page!